The Stack Archive

Emergency UK data law – Interview with cloud lawyer, Frank Jennings

Thu 10 Jul 2014

The announcement of the UK government’s push to pass a new data retention law sparked great controversy with privacy campaigners and made quite an impact on social media.

With all three major political parties supporting this law we wanted to look into the legal ramifications a little further.

Earlier today we spoke with Frank Jennings, a lawyer specialising in cloud computing and data security, to ask for further explanation and opinion on this fast-tracked legislation.

What are your thoughts on the legislation – is it a necessary step to ensure law enforcement, in terms of crime prevention and public security, or rather a call against respect for private life and the protection of personal data?

At one point, the European Commission had passed an EU-wide law allowing this power but the European court ruled it was a disproportionate restriction on privacy and data protection. It is not clear how the UK government’s emergency legislation will overcome these issues, particularly as it is rushing the law through without a proper debate in Parliament. There will always be a tension between broad data collection and retention powers to uphold national security on the one hand and the human and privacy rights of the individual on the other. President Obama’s recent proposed reforms of the NSA make it clear that the NSA will continue with its mission but that there will be some changes over the way bulk data is stored.

There are concerns that the emergency law provides a ‘backdoor’ to the Snoopers’ Charter – do you feel the new directive too closely echoes this formerly overruled legislation?

The Liberal Democrats objected to the so-called Snooper’s Charter but appear to back this emergency legislation. Cameron and Clegg are looking to overcome a challenge that the UK powers are no longer lawful following the European ruling. The key difference appears to be that they are looking to reintroduce powers which were permitted under the directive rather than introducing new powers. Having said that, there is a suggestion that Cameron will propose wider powers if the Conservatives win the 2015 election outright but in the meantime, there will be a review of the UK Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act which has broad surveillance powers.

Could the European court challenge this ruling too?

The European court ruling was as a result of challenges referred from Ireland and Austria. The ruling applied to the directive not to the national laws implementing the directive. Any challenge to the UK law is likely to take place in the UK courts and inevitably will take time. While the UK courts have the power to rule that the emergency legislation is in breach of the Data Protection and Human Rights Acts, it will be interesting to see whether the safeguards promised by Cameron will defeat such a challenge.

Frank Jennings is a lawyer at DMH Stallard specialising in cloud and technology, commercial contracts, data security, and intellectual property. His clients are a mixture of cloud providers and cloud customers. To read more from Frank Jennings visit his blog, The Cloud Lawyer.



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